BLOOMFIELD - Those who wish to have a hand in making the new state veterans cemetery even more beautiful are now able to thanks to an organization recently formed to assist with donations.
"People want to donate money to the cemetery and the Missouri Veterans Affairs that runs the cemetery doesn't have any way of handling donations," explained R.W. Richmond of Dexter, president of The Bloomfield Assistance League of the Missouri State Veterans Cemetery.
"We're a state agency - I can't accept it," confirmed Ken Swearengin, director of the Missouri State Veterans Cemetery at Bloomfield.
For many Southeast Missouri residents, a dream became a reality last fall when the new cemetery was opened in the rolling hills of Stoddard County.
Located on Highway 25 just south of Bloomfield and the Stars and Stripes Museum/Library, this cemetery now provides a final resting place close to home for area men and women who served the nation in the armed forces.
"There are a total of four Missouri veterans cemeteries in the state," said Richmond. The other three are located at Springfield, Higginsville and Jacksonville. "All of the cemeteries have assistance leagues set up to collect, manage and control the funds."
"I think its something that's nice to have for the cemetery - some people like to give to the cemetery, so it's nice to have a way to do it if they want to," Swearengin said.
The donations are needed as there are "certain things I can't buy with state funds," Swearengin said, "things that the state isn't going to buy."
For example, lights for the fountain in the cemetery's pond would be deemed by the state to be "nice but not necessary," Swearengin said.
The need for a way to accept gifts has already proven itself. "They've already accepted some small donations," Swearengin said, "and we've had one for a $1,000."
"I think this organization is an asset to the cemetery," said the league's vice president, Blair Moran of Sikeston. "We will now be able to enhance the cemetery with donations."
Formed in the spring of this year, the organization selected a board of directors which, in addition to Richmond and Moran, includes: James Harness of Advance, secretary; Gary Deardorf of Bloomfield, treasurer; and Douglas Siler of Puxico, chaplain. All are veterans, Richmond noted.
Terms are staggered in varying length from one to five years. "We meet there at the cemetery offices," said Richmond. "We are required to meet three times per year plus hold an annual meeting by our bylaws." The committee may also hold additional executive sessions as needed.
Swearengin and Jim Long, the cemetery's maintenance supervisor, "serve ex-officio with us," according to Richmond. "They have a veto power. Anything they feel would be detrimental, they can reject it."
Since forming, the assistance league has been busy fulfilling its legal requirements.
"We have our certificate for non-profit corporation and federal ID," said Richmond. The league is currently in the process of obtaining tax exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service so individuals, businesses and other corporate entities may donate funds on a tax-deductible basis. "We should know within the next 30-60 days on that," he said. Funds are also welcomed from veteran organizations and civic clubs throughout southeast Missouri.
Money collected by the cemetery's assistance league will be used for things like "flags and benches and other things that will add to the cemetery," Moran said.
Trees and lighting are also examples, Richmond said. Memorials can also be made by adding a name plate to the donated enhancement.
Any individual or group interested in making a donation payable to "The Bloomfield Assistance League of the Missouri State Veterans Cemetery" may send it care of the Missouri State Veterans Cemetery, 17357 Stars and Strips Way, Bloomfield, MO 63825.